Julie Kelly's Blog
Brine before it’s time (to grill)
Few summer entrées look more enticing than barbecued chicken; this was my favorite summertime food as a kid. But more often than not, the glossy, caramelized exterior disguises a bland, dry interior.
Low-fat proteins like chicken breasts and pork tenderloins are tricky items to grill properly. The combination of low fat content and high, dry heat can be a prescription for dinnertime disappointment. And no amount of Sweet Baby Ray’s can mask overcooked, dry chicken meat.
The steps you take prior to firing up the coals are as important as the process itself. Brining your chicken is a very simple step that will help ensure juicy, moist barbecued chicken.
The purpose of a brine is to exchange the fluid in the meat with the brining liquid. This basically “salts” the inside of the protein, which boosts its natural flavor. The salt in the brine also relaxes tougher proteins in the meat, serving as a tenderizer (acid in a marinade acts in the same way.)
Preparing a brine only requires water, kosher salt and a little sugar. The sugar will caramelize the chicken skin, giving it that nice browned appearance instead of yellow or gray.
The following recipe includes a mixture for six chicken breasts on-the-bone but can also be used for boneless chicken breasts and pork tenderloins. Chicken breasts on-the-bone simply have a bit more taste as it pulls naturally-occurring flavors from the bone and skin. Plus, it makes a better presentation than plain old chicken breast.
And for those ambitious grillmasters, let me answer your question before you ask; yes, you can experiment with your own brining liquid. Fresh herbs, spices and/or citrus will mildly flavor the meat and create an added flavor level you can brag about.